Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Why Social Media Managers Need to be Content Creators

You’ve set up your LinkedIn Business Profile and your Twitter account, and your ready to engage with the world. What’s next?

Here’s the part where, without strategy, many companies end up staring at their monitors like a dog that’s been shown a card trick. Social media is an avenue of communications where you can tell your story, but you still need a story to tell. You also need to present that story in an accessible way suitable for your audience.

Different people are at different stages of the purchase process. They all want different things. Different information, presented in different ways.

This may been in-depth white papers to highlight your brands thought leadership credentials. It might be animated videos to explain core concepts. It could be rich and visual infographics, to share and to make your data more digestible. It could be photographs of events and special occasions, or even products. It may be SEO friendly blog content answering their frequently asked questions. The list goes on.

All this needs to be gathered within the daily constraints of time and resources, and with a creative eye and sympathy towards the brand identity and how the company is seen by their audience. If all your going to do is be an aggregator of content, well that’s fine, but your not going to push many people back to your website, make any great relationships, or be seen as anything other than a content aggregator. You need to be producing your own creative content and using social media as a tool to place that under the right peoples noses.

Being a Jack of all Trades is awesome, but not as good as being a Brisco County, Jr.

Nowadays a social media manager needs to be a polymath and have skills in photography and Photoshop, research, creative writing, video scripting and production, branding, roleplaying, even basic coding and audio production. They also need to know the tools and how to get insight through measurement.

Above all, a social media manager needs to have an eye for an opportunity to generate content, in what ever form that takes.

Yes, good social media people are bloody hard to recruit. Yes, this raises capacity issues. Social media manager is a job in it’s own right. It’s not part of another job any more. Or it is, should I say, if you want to get the results and do it right. It’s strategic, creative, pro-active, and the social platforms move the goal-posts on you weekly to keep you guessing and on your toes (mostly on the morning before I’ve got new social media managers booked in for a training, I’ve found).

For me, having the back-up of an agency is pure fried gold. I have a broad range of experience, but the guys at Tank PR in Nottingham write better than I do and have kick-ass research skills. They can all handle a camera and think outside the box. They all understand how to talk in a brand voice. I fill in some specialist areas - like audio, training, strategy, video, etc. - and it lets us handle multiple brands, based on a clear social plan (we don’t take on new clients without). They see opportunities, and act accordingly. They help me help clients to see the possibilities. This is why the larger companies have teams to do this, and use people like me to train them. This isn't about being a Jack-of-all-Trades and master of none, it's about being a master of social media.

I’ve said it before, but I genuinely believe that PR and social are the closest match. Digital agencies, on the whole, just don’t generate the quality of content needed to make a brand stand out from the herd and rarely see beyond SEO. Creative agencies, while invariably masters of the infographic, haven't the kahoonas for strategy and keeping pace with all the techniques for exposure.

If you're an SME and your social team don’t have the skills (or access to the skills) to be generating regular fresh content then you’re going to stagnate and your channels will die. Sorry, but that's how it is. The algorithms of some channels will devalue your content if people don’t engage. People won't engage if you don't have a variety of insightful, creative, entertaining, on-brand content.

Unless you’re a content creator, as well as a social media manager, it’s just not going to work.

Find a polymath with brand skills, or hire an agency. It's the only way. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is.

It also helps if you're an ambidextrous insomniac, but that's for another post...